Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Dandenong South to Bairnsdale

We left Dandenong on Friday May 15 with our next stop to be at Phillip Island.  We had put off going there a few days earlier because of bad weather but it was slowly improving. Obviously not many people go to Phillip Island at this time of year as there was only one other van in the park when we booked in. We were given two great sites  and there was a terrific camp kitchen complete with a fireplace and a more than ample supply of firewood just waiting to be used. After setting up and lunch we went for a drive to the eastern most point of the island – Cape Woolamai. It was very cold and windy there so we lingered just long enough to have a quick look and take a photo. It was a very pretty spot – the first of many on the island. Ron got the fire going when we arrived back at the park and we huddled around that while having dinner.

SAM_6935 San Remo to Phillip Island    SAM_6936

Bridge from San Remo to Phillip Island                A grey day at Cape Woolamai

Both Saturday and Sunday were lovely clear sunny days and we had a wonderful time exploring the island. We began by visiting The Nobbies, rocky outcrops which are at the eastern end of the island. We followed the boardwalk around the headland and on to the blowhole and spent ages enjoying the scenery. The hillside was dotted with little wooden nesting boxes built there for the penguins. As we headed back to Cowes we stopped at various lookouts to further admire the views. Home then for a late lunch and then Ron, Di and I set off to explore the shops of Cowes while David stayed at the van to get the Weber going and the leg of lamb cooking.  More sitting around the fire at night as we tucked in to a lovely roast dinner.

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Looking east from The Nobbies     Enjoying the sunshine                The Nobbies

SAM_7016 Phelans Bluff

View from Phelans Bluff with stands for penguin viewing on the left overlooking the beach.

We went to church in Cowes on Sunday morning and were made to feel very welcome. We shared morning tea afterwards and picked up a few tips about things to see and do both on and off the island. Explored a couple more beaches on our way to Churchill Island where we were having lunch to celebrate my birthday. It was a great spot and we sat looking out over Western Port Bay. We were visited by a peacock while having lunch! Both Churchill and Phillip Islands are overrun with Cape Barren Geese almost to the point of being in plague proportions. We found them to be quite fascinating. There was time for a bit more sightseeing at some beaches and a historic precinct before going back to the van. We all enjoyed a walk on the beach before dinner and watched a pretty sunset. More sitting around the fire as we ate dinner at night. We enjoyed chatting to a couple of young English girls who were staying at the park for a couple of nights. I had a lovely birthday made more special by countless phone calls and messages from family and friends.

SAM_6999 Cape Barren Geese        SAM_7023        SAM_7025

Cape Barren Geese            Lunchtime at Churchill Island     Our view at lunchtime

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A lunchtime guest!               Longhaired and longhorned!           Pyramid Rock

It was time to move on again on Monday and at the recommendation of a few people we headed to Walhalla. It is a little mining town where gold was first discovered in 1862. At its peak it had a population of over 3,500 but now has less than 20 permanent residents. Our GPS sent us on a very roundabout route to get there which meant we arrived much later than we had planned. Along the way we stopped for morning tea at Cape Patterson where we enjoyed chatting with a couple of locals. We checked out another lookout called Eagle’s Nest and then drove on for another hour or so. We saw a sign pointing to a place called Mossvale Park along the way and decided to turn in there for lunch. It turned out to be the most amazing find – a huge park which was originally planted by a nurseryman over 100 years ago. Huge trees everywhere most of which were deciduous so there were leaves inches thick on the ground. There were two bus loads of school children probably aged about 7 there and they were having a marvellous time raking up the leaves then throwing them at each other or burying each other in them. We had a great time watching them enjoying themselves.

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Autumn beauty at Mossvale Park

The rest of the drive to Walhalla was up a winding mountainous road so David and Ron were pleased when we finally reached the town. We set up in the free camp area then did a bit of exploring. Quite a number of the original houses are still there and the town is situated in a narrow valley so buildings are perched up the sides of the valley in very precarious places. We couldn’t begin to imagine how some of them were built. The cemetery clings to the side of the hill at a 45 degree angle. Electricity only came to Walhalla in 1998 and it was the last town in Victoria to be connected to the power supply. The sun makes a late entrance to and an early exit from the valley as it is so steep sided. We enjoyed a campfire once the sun disappeared and then tucked ourselves up in bed with hot water bottles, blankets, doonas etc and managed to survive the night. We did some more exploring of the town the next morning before setting off at about lunchtime for Bairnsdale.

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Fire station built over creek     Windsor House built 1890              Band Rotunda      owing to no flat land available

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Post Office Walhalla                       Beautiful birdlife                   Creek at Walhalla

Two nights were spent at the Bairnsdale Riverside Holiday Park right next to the Mitchell River. It was a lovely spot with plenty of bird life to keep us entertained. Wednesday morning we visited the Information Centre to find out what we should see and do. Our first stop after that was at St Mary’s Catholic Church. It is said to be the Sistine Chapel of Australia.   An excerpt from the church’s website says:- “The comprehensive interior decorative scheme of murals depicting the apostles, numerous saints, imaginings of purgatory, heaven and hell and the literally hundreds of scraphims and cherubims were painted by an Italian migrant, Francesco Floreani between 1931 and 1938.” We all thought it was amazing.

 SAM_7212        SAM_7215 St Mary's Church Bairnsdale

St Mary’s Catholic Church

We travelled south east from Bairnsdale to Eagle Point and Paynesville which are on Lake King and Lake Victoria respectively. One of the “must sees”, according to the tourist brochures, were the silt jetties which extend over 8 kilometres into Lake King. So off we set, not really knowing what we were looking for. We drove over an extremely rough pot-holed gravel road as far as we could go and there we came upon a fisherman who told us we’d just driven right along the silt jetty. Well, who would have known! It’s right up there with the stromatolites which we saw in WA two years ago on the list of things we won’t be rushing back to see again! Paynesville was a pretty town and was worth a visit. While we were having afternoon tea at The Bluff at Eagle Point a cheeky magpie hopped onto the rock were our picnic bags etc were and as quick as a flash snatched one of Ron’s biscuits. It enjoyed its afternoon tea!

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And the winner is…….!            Lake King from The Bluff                 The silt jetties

Thursday saw us farewelling Bairnsdale and on the road again to Lakes Entrance a whole 40 kilometres away but more of that in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Bright to Dandenong

We left Bright on Wednesday May 6 for a short drive of 60km to Beechworth. In the afternoon we went to the Information Centre and purchased a Historic Precinct Golden Ticket which gave us access for four days to various historic buildings, the museum and a couple of guided walks. We looked through a few of the buildings including the Ned Kelly Vault (previously the Gold Receivers Office and Sub Treasury) which houses the world’s largest collection of Kelly Gang materials. I’m not totally convinced that we should be glorifying criminals but a lot of the towns in this area make much of their activities. We then checked out Harry Power’s cell under what was once used as the courthouse. He was apparently a gentleman bushranger and also Ned Kelly’s mentor. Finally we checked out Gold Warden’s office and then the courthouse which is a magnificent old building. It was the scene of many trials involving Ned Kelly and his mother. Sir Isaac Isaacs began his legal career here before going on to become the first Australian born governor general. He was appointed to that position in 1930 at the age of 75 and served for a period of 5 years.

SAM_6743   The Historic Precinct

Thursday was spent driving around the area looking at some nearby towns. Firstly we went on the Gorge scenic drive which covers the area around the northern and western outskirts of Beechworth and was a very pretty drive. We then visited the towns of Yackandandah and Chiltern – both old gold mining towns. They were both quaint little places that we enjoyed visiting. We returned to Beechworth via the Woolshed Falls. Apparently people swim at the base of them in summer but we could have just about skated there today. Ron got the fire going back at the caravan park and we cooked dinner in the camp oven then huddled shivering around the fire to eat before beating a hasty retreat to the warmth of our vans.

SAM_6768            SAM_6772  Replica of gold miners hut           SAM_6780

Newtown Bridge and Falls     Miners Hut at Chiltern                     Woolshed Falls

On Friday morning we booked in for another night as we still had things to see and do in Beechworth. We all did a guided walk around the town in the morning. It was very chilly so we were well rugged up. The guide was great and had a terrific knowledge about the town and surrounding areas so made it extremely interesting. Once we’d finished that we drove out to a couple more little old gold mining towns – Stanley and Eldorado but neither had a lot going for them. Home for a late lunch then and a short break before we went back into town to visit the Robert O’Hara Burke Memorial Museum. Burke, who was the Superintendent of Police here from 1854 to 1858, is the Burke of Burke and Wills fame and the museum was renamed in his honour in 1861 after his death. Part of the museum was set up as a 19th century recreation of a Beechworth streetscape and we all enjoyed looking at that. There were lots of other interesting displays as well to make it a worthwhile visit.

SAM_6788 But But Tree Beechworth          SAM_6790 Old railway line route Beecvhworth          SAM_6791 Leaves at Beechworth

400 year old tree                    Autumn colours                         Buried in leaves!              at Beechworth

We hooked the vans up on Saturday morning and moved on to Marysville which was one of the towns decimated by the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009. Nearly 90% of the buildings in the town were destroyed and 45 people were killed. Much of the town has been rebuilt since then although we noticed many house blocks that are bare so obviously it was all too difficult for some people to remain here. On Sunday morning we followed the Black Spur drive to Healesville. It is a distance of about 30km through towering mountain ash forests with huge ferns covering the forest floor. It was wet and misty as we drove through the area and quite hauntingly beautiful. We went to church in Healesville where we were made very welcome. Next we paid a quick visit to Maroondah Reservoir before then driving to Yarra Glen to celebrate Mothers’ Day with lunch at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie. It was obviously a popular choice as there were hundreds of people there. We enjoyed a lovely lunch as we huddled under a heater and then sampled some chocolate and made a couple of small purchases! We drove home via Kinglake, another town badly affected by the bushfires in 2009. After dinner David, Ron and I went to check out the Steavenson Falls just out of Marysville. They are floodlit at night and were a sight to behold. Because it had been raining almost non-stop since we arrived here there was a huge amount of water rushing over.

SAM_6843       SAM_6845       SAM_6838 Steavenson Falls Marysville

Steavenson River                       Beauty in the mist             Steavenson Falls by night

On Monday morning we were due to move on to Phillip Island but when we rang the caravan park there they recommended that we delay visiting for a few days as gales force winds, possible hail storms and rain were expected. After a quick consultation we settled on spending some time at Dandenong on the outskirts of Melbourne. We’ve ended up having four nights here and it has been wet most of the time. We visited a couple of shopping centres one day in search of some new shoes for David and also to stock up on some groceries. That was followed by a drive to Frankston and along the waterfront where it was blowing a gale and freezing cold. We woke to the news on Wednesday morning that there had been a light snowfall at Mt Dandenong so quickly got organised and drove up there to check it out. We went to a place called Sky High on the top of the mountain which is apparently famous for its views but the views were non-existent that day owing to very low clouds. That didn’t deter us though from having a wonderful time. The snow had turned to ice but we managed to make some snowballs to throw at each other and Ron made a little snowman. We wandered through the English Garden and Secret Garden, admired the Australiana Tree which was designed and sculpted over a period of three weeks in 2006 and enjoyed coffee beside a roaring fire.

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Light snow at Mt Dandenong              Love the view!                    Ron’s snowman

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Beauty in the English Garden   Entry to the Secret Garden       The Australiana Tree

We drove through a few pretty little towns in the Dandenong Ranges on the way home and stopped to admire Puffing Billy at Belgrave. He is a steam engine who was the star of a book that I used to love reading to the boys when they were young. At night I left the others to their own devices and went to have dinner with our friend Wendy who we first met in Townsville nearly forty years ago. It was lovely to catch up with her again.

SAM_6932 Puffing Billy getting ready to roll

Today Di, Ron and I went into Melbourne city by bus and train to have a look around. David wasn’t well so he stayed at the van to have a rest. We wandered the streets for hours but stopped off to have morning tea at Hopetown Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade which had come highly recommended by a friendly volunteer near Federation Square. She knew what she was talking about! We met my nephew Andrew for a late lunch in Lygon Street. It was great to catch up with him over lunch and as he walked us back to the station via the State Library where he showed us the Reading Room. It was quite beautiful. We managed to successfully negotiate the public transport system again and arrived home just before six o’clock.

IMG_0345 Hopetown Tea Rooms Melbourne    IMG_0346 Melbourne State Library

 

Fine fare at Hopetoun Tea Rooms                 Beautiful State Library Reading Room

 

Tomorrow we move on – probably to spend a couple of days on Phillip Island but for now this is the end.

Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Apollo Bay to Bright

We packed up in the rain and the mud on Monday 27th and were wet and cold by the time we departed from Apollo Bay. We enjoyed the drive to Lorne and by the time we arrived there it was reasonably fine so we were able to park and have a little wander around. All these towns have grown incredibly since we were last here 18 years ago. We drove on from there almost to Geelong and then turned north to Ballarat. Had a quick look around Ballarat later in the day. We checked out the Eureka Centre and the botanical gardens and also admired the many beautifully kept old homes around the town. More rain overnight and we had to pack up in the rain again.

SAM_6352 Apollo Bay   Apollo Bay on a cold, wet morning

Our next overnight stop was to be Shepparton but after a couple of hours on the road we changed our minds and headed straight to Bright. We were meeting our friends Chris and Brenda there and they were surprised to see us turn up a day early. Our stay was to coincide with the Bright Autumn Festival which we had been hearing about for years from friends who loved to visit here.

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Di, Ron, Chris, Brenda and David at the Bright – Tawonga Road Lookout

We’ve had the most amazing week here in Bright. The weather has been absolutely perfect – cold at night but up to 22 degrees and clear blue skies during the day. We were only going to stay four nights but will be here at least seven now and maybe longer as there has been so much to see and do.  The colours in Bright, although locals tell us aren’t as good as usual, have looked spectacular to us.

SAM_6469       SAM_6479       SAM_6491 Mystic Lookout

Beautiful autumn colours in Bright

The festival has been great fun with guided river walks, open gardens, a huge autumn market, grand parade, bands and various singing groups performing in the market square and probably a dozen other things I’ve forgotten.

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Ovens River Canyon Walk   Surviving the swing bridge     Grand Parade Float

SAM_6474 Nightingale Apples Wandiligong          SAM_6477          SAM_6554

Apple Orchard and Open Gardens

We’ve also explored lots of different areas around Bright some of which are Mt Beauty, Falls Creek, Mystic Lookout (guided there over winding gravel roads by Rod, a friend of many years who now lives here), Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain. We visited a trout farm at Harrietville and managed to catch six trout which we shared for dinner one night. Chris and Brenda left us this morning to return to Caloundra and we were sorry to see them go. It was fun to share this part of our adventure with them.

SAM_6447 Falls Creek             SAM_6460             SAM_6494

Trees as far as you can see      Autumn in Mt Beauty          View from Mystic Lookout destroyed by fire at Falls Creek

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The evidence!                                View at Dinner Plain                    Mt HothamSAM_6601                                                       View at Mt Hotham

Today we decided to drive up Mt Buffalo and then on to Beechworth once we’d left there.  We loved the scenery on the drive up the mountain.  First stop was The Chalet which is currently being renovated but is the starting point for some walks and also has quite a few lookouts.  Di, Ron and I did the walk to Crystal Brook Falls and had to climb up 165 steps (counted by Ron!) to get back to the car park.  We were all a bit breathless by the time we’d finished.  Next was the hang gliders lookout – one would need nerves of steel to launch from there!  It was back in the car then and on to The Horn which is the highest point in the Mt Buffalo plateau.  None of us had the energy to go up to the lookout as it seemed to be way up in the heavens but the view from the start was amazing enough to satisfy us.

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Bents Lookout                       Crystal Brook Lookout            Hang Gliders Launch Pad

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Panoramic view from Bents Lookout                  The shelter at The Horn built 1930’s

From Mt Buffalo we headed on to Beechworth as the bakery there had been recommended to us.  The visit was well worthwhile and we also enjoyed the little bit of the town that we saw.  We have now decided that we’ll move on there to explore a bit more when we leave Bright on Wednesday.  Tomorrow will be a bit of a rest day after the hectic week we’ve had and we’ll catch up on grocery shopping, washing etc and maybe a river walk as well.  That’s it for now – I’ll be back in a week or so.

Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Halls Gap to Apollo Bay

We left Hopetoun on Tuesday the 21st to drive to Halls Gap in The Grampians and enjoyed driving through some new countryside. Halls Gap is quite a small town and is dwarfed on both sides by mountains that tower over the town. We set ourselves up at the caravan park then in the afternoon went back into the town to visit the Information Centre to find out about the multitude off walks in the area and which ones would be suitable for us to do. We decided to settle for the easy and medium rated ones which turned out to be a wise move!

SAM_6098 Cliffs behind Halls Gap Lakeside P

The view from our site in the caravan park

On Wednesday we spent the day visiting some lookouts and doing a variety of walks. The battery in my camera died fairly early in the day and although I had a spare it was low on charge too so I took some photos on my phone and some on my camera. As a result of that I now don’t really know what order we saw things in but we did a walk through the Grand Canyon (1km) which entailed clambering over large rocks at times, an easy walk to the Silverband Falls (1.4km) through a very pretty shady, ferny forest, a walk to the viewing platform for the Mackenzie Falls (1.9km), a walk to The Balconies Lookout (2km) and short walks to Boroka and Reed Lookouts. A lot of it was up hill and down dale so by the time we’d finished we were pleased to come home for a break. There are kangaroos, emus and quite a variety of birds here that we spent time enjoying. We’ve never seen so many kangaroos and emus in one place before. The guys lit a campfire later on and we sat around that until well after dark just enjoying the peace.

SAM_6101          IMG_0288 Silverband Falls          IMG_0318 Mackenzie Falls

The Grand Canyon                        Silverband Falls             Mackenzie Falls

SAM_6106 Boroka Lookout        SAM_6108 Reed Lookout        SAM_6109 The Balconies Lookout

Boroka Lookout                                 Reed Lookout                  The Balconies Lookout

David was feeling a bit weary on Thursday so decided to stay at the park while Di, Ron and I went to do a walk to the Pinnacle. It was classed as medium but we all found it very challenging in places. It was a 4.2km round trip and it took us just over 2 hours to do it. Lots of climbing up and down rocks and steep tracks which meant we needed to stop every now and then for a breather. We all agreed though that it was well worth the effort as the view from the lookout was spectacular and the rock formations were stunning. It was almost as difficult on the return and by the time we got back to the park we could barely get out of the car. Lunch and then a rest was on the agenda for all. Di and I went out again after that to do the Venus Baths Loop which was another 2.3km. It was through pretty countryside and the baths which were just natural pools in the rocks were crystal clear and very peaceful to look at. Dinner around the campfire again ended another great day.

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Rocky outcrops on The Pinnacle                                                      Venus Baths

Friday saw us on the road again and heading south to Warrnambool. We travelled on minor roads all the way and passed through some lovely little towns and beautiful green countryside. We’re staying at Figtree Holiday Village – quite a small park that is near the town centre but in a quiet area. We decided to drive to Port Fairy after lunch. It’s about a 20 minute drive west of Warrnambool. We were last there in 1998 and were amazed at how it has grown since then. Back then to do some grocery shopping as supplies were running a bit low.

Anzac Day. We had never been to a dawn service so decided to get ourselves up early and go to the one here. It was pretty chilly but was certainly worth the effort. As seems to have been the case all over the country, there were record crowds and it was a very moving service. The haunting tones of the trumpet playing the Reveille and the Rouse in the still of the early morn were enough to bring tears to my eyes. The RSL had set up little white crosses in front of the cenotaph – one for each life lost in the various conflicts since World War I from this area. Names and where they had served were on each cross and that was incredibly moving to see too. Once the service finished there was breakfast being served by a few different organisations so we partook of that before coming back to our vans.

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Dawn service at Warrnambool

Back at the park Di and I had a swim in the heated indoor pool followed by a spa. That was all very nice but walking back to our vans afterwards when it was only 10 degrees wasn’t so good! A warm shower and then a cup of coffee soon warmed us up and then it was time to set off for a drive to Port Campbell. It started raining almost as soon as we departed so we didn’t go into a lot of the lookouts on our way along the Great Ocean Road. We ventured down to the one at London Bridge armed with umbrellas and ponchos as the rain had eased off a bit. It turned out to be a bad decision as it began pouring rain and blowing a gale as soon as we got there and we all got a drenching. There was much laughter as we rushed back to the car! On then to Port Campbell where we managed to find a dry and warm place to have lunch before heading home.

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Cold and wet at  London Bridge                           Even the seagull looked cold!

Today being Sunday we managed to locate the Uniting Church in Warrnambool where we were welcomed and made to feel very much at home. We were all blessed by our time of worship there. We then went back to the park, hooked up our vans and headed for Apollo Bay. It was a wonderful drive as the weather was much better with just the odd spot of rain so we were able to walk in to all the lookouts along the way. It is a spectacular, rugged coastline as any who have travelled it would know. The sea was absolutely roaring in which made it even more impressive. We’d forgotten about the drive through the Great Otway National Park just after the Twelve Apostles and how hilly and windy it was. David and Ron were both quite exhausted after concentrating so fiercely. A little look around Apollo Bay followed by locally caught snapper and chips and now we’re tucked up in our vans away from the wind and rain which has set in since we arrived here.

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Rugged up at the Bay of Islands       The Grotto                            London Bridge

SAM_6304        SAM_6333        SAM_6336 Twelve Apostles

Island Archway                              Loch Ard Gorge                          Twelve Apostles

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Thunder Cave

Tomorrow we head away from the coast as we make our way to Bright.

Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Bourke to Halls Gap

We said goodbye to Lightning Ridge and moved on to Bourke. Stopped in at Brewarrina along the way to look at the aboriginal fish traps in the Barwon River that consist of river stones arranged to form small channels which direct fish into small areas from which they can be plucked. They are apparently 40,000 years old. We also saw the rock river fishway (built in 2012) which, when the river is flowing, allows the fish to swim upstream up past the weir to the and into the upstream river habitat.  We arrived in Bourke for a late lunch and sweltered there for the next two days. It was 36 degrees both days- dry and stifling. We set ourselves up at Kidman Camp Country Resort which is about 10km north of Bourke on the banks of the Darling River. It was like an oasis in the desert as there is no shortage of water from the river to sprinkle and keep everything looking green and lush. On our arrival at the park we were given a booklet called “Back O’Bourke Mud Map Tours” which had 11 self-driving tours of Bourke and the surrounding districts. The first afternoon we went to see the historical lock and weir which was built in 1897. The lock ceased being used about 1940. We then went to see a replica of the Fort Bourke stockade which was originally built by Major Mitchell in 1835.  No-one knows what the original stockade looked like but it didn’t look like a very effective stockade.   We didn’t think it would have protected anyone for very long from any sort of attack!                                           SAM_5933 Rock-Ramp Fishway Barwon River        SAM_5948        SAM_5951 Replica of Fort Burke Stockade built by Major Mitchell 1835

Rock ramp fishway               Darling River lock and weir      Fort Burke Stockade replica The next morning we were away bright and early to do the wharf, North Burke Bridge and relic of P.S. Wave tour. The wharf is also a replica of what would have originally been a three level wharf similar to the one at Echuca. It original wharf was built in 1898. The old lift bridge was built in England in 1883, brought to Australia and then brought up the river in sections by paddlesteamer. It was replaced by a new bridge in 1997. On then to see the remains of the P.S. Wave and there certainly wasn’t much of that to see. It was stranded on the banks of the river by a flood in 1921 and apparently the owner lived in it there for many years with his family. We visited our first bakery for the trip next and enjoyed morning tea on the banks of the Darling before doing the historical buildings of “Old Bourke” tour. There are some lovely old buildings in the town                                                                                                                     SAM_5959        SAM_5963       SAM_6000 Replica of wharf                      Remains of P.S. Wave          Old North Burke Bridge

Next we spent a while at the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre which was interesting and informative. Later in the day we did a one hour trip on the PV Jandra Paddleboat. It was still terribly hot so we kept having to move about on the boat to find some shade. Once back at the park we headed for the pool to cool off which we did very quickly as it seemed as though someone had filled the pool with iced water! At night we enjoyed dinner around a campfire and were entertained by a local poet. The evening is called “Poetry on a Plate” and was most enjoyable. The poet accompanied his poetry with guitar playing which was lovely to listen to. Great entertainment, great food and well worth going to if ever in Bourke.

SAM_6006 Jandra on darling River      SAM_6005 Darling River   P.V. Jandra                                                                           The Darling River

Friday saw us on the move again just for an overnight stop at Hillston. We broke our journey at Cobar to go to the Fort Bourke Lookout to check out the open cut mine. We spent quite some time there watching trucks and machinery winding their way down to the bottom of the mine and disappearing inside a large tunnel then others coming out all loaded up. Eventually we moved on and as we were nearing Hillston we saw a sign saying we had to dump all our fruit. We weren’t too happy about that so pulled in to a rest area, gorged ourselves on heaps of fruit and I stewed up some apples while Di stewed up some pears. We spent the night at a rest area outside Hillston. SAM_6022

The open cut mine at Cobar

We left Hillston to go to Balranald on Saturday morning but spent quite a few hours in Hay along the way. First we visited the Dunera Museum which is set up in two railway carriages at the now unused Hay Railway Station. It tells the story of the Hay Internment and POW Camps. Over 6,200 internees and prisoners of war were housed there between 1940 and 1946. We also went to see the Bishop’s Lodge which was built in 1888. It has had a varied life and is now just open for tourists to visit. It is a huge house and very impressive. There is also a historic garden with heritage roses dating back to soon after the house was built. Unfortunately not many were flowering but it was still lovely to wander through the gardens. On then to Balranald where we spent the night in a free camp behind the Information Centre. SAM_6032        SAM_6042        SAM_6067 Dunera Museum                       Hay Railway Station                  Bishop’s Lodge

Sunday saw us travelling on to Lake Lascelles at Hopetoun in Victoria. It’s a beautiful spot but the weather has taken a turn for the worse. Very windy and cold so we’ve had to delve into our cupboards for winter clothing. We had a restful afternoon hiding in our vans! Di and I walked around the lake (2km) just before sunset when the wind dropped a bit. Today we went into the town to have a look around but there wasn’t a great deal to see. Lots of empty shops everywhere although the town itself is a reasonable size with some lovely old homes that look well kept. We’ve enjoyed another fairly quiet day which was capped off with a great dinner cooked in the camp oven. Tomorrow we will move on to Halls Gap in The Grampians.and more cold weather!                                                                                                            SAM_6082        SAM_6088        SAM_6092 Sunset at Lake Lascelles             Our campsite                      Cooking the dinner

Meandering through NSW and Victoria

Brisbane to Bourke

We set off from Brisbane on Thursday April 9 to do some exploring through New South Wales and Victoria. Our first overnight stop was at Inglewood where we found a free camp and met up with Dianne and Ron – our travelling buddies. The free camp there was a great little spot with lush green grass and in a quiet part of the town. We left  the next morning for a drive of a bit over 200km to our next stop which was to be at our niece Maree’s and her husband John’s home on Curragundi Station, west of Moree. Travelled via Goondiwindi where we detoured to have a look around and Bogabilla for a morning tea break. Maree met us at Bullalah Public School and we then followed her through some farms to their place. We spent two days there and had a lovely time with them and their family. Lots of talking, laughing, eating and playing with the kids went on! John took David and Ron on a tour of the property on Saturday morning so I’ll hand over to David now to report on that.

Inglewood      SAM_5738 Sunset Curragundi Station      SAM_5741 Elsa

Relaxing at Inglewood            Sunset at Curragundi        Elsa ready for farm work!

Curragundi is a 28,000 acre property which runs some sheep and some cattle and also has an agricultural side.  Our host John Weier is managing the agricultural side of the business which means growing any stock feed that is required and other commercial crops. John was good enough to take Ron and I on a bit of a tour, some interesting machinery – some older well maintained and well used and some near new with hi-tech computer operating systems that allow hands free ploughing, harvesting etc, etc.

Great stuff and very interesting. One of those tractors had lights a good rally car would envy, but as they work round the clock during the planting and harvesting the lights are understandable. Thanks John, really appreciated the tour even though it was well outside anything I had seen before.

It was sad to say goodbye to the Weier family on Sunday morning but it was time to move on. Next stop was Lightning Ridge. David and I had been here with our boys about 30 years ago and there have been a huge number of changes since then. Some things don’t change though. Yesterday someone told us that this is the place that people come to when they want to disappear and I remember hearing that the first time we were here. We booked in to the caravan park, had lunch and then set off to do some exploring. There were mullock heaps as far as the eye could see, various opal mines, Lunatic Lookout which looks over a large open cut mine and where an opal valued at $2.5 million dollars was found, myriads of rusty old cars and machinery and all sorts of shacks and huts where people live. It is extremely dry here as the country has been in drought for three years. A lot of people do it tough but others make their fortune and everyone thinks that tomorrow will be the day when they will strike it rich.

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Open cut opal mine            One who didn’t make it!              A glorious sunset

Monday morning it was time to dip our toes in the Artesian Bore Baths. The water is at a constant 41 degrees so it was like getting into a very hot bath. The water is reputed to give relief to aching bodies so I think it would be a popular place for the miners. We enjoyed the experience but didn’t stay in too long as we were afraid we’d resemble lobsters when we got out!  After that we headed back to Queensland to a little town called Hebel which is 70km from Lightning Ridge and just over the border. It has a population of 28 so there wasn’t a lot happening there! It consists of a few houses, a hotel, general store and a caravan park and very little else. We checked out the Bokhara River which flows past the town and to our surprise there was quite a lot of water in it. We lunched at the General Store before returning to do a tour of the Chambers of the Black Hand Opal Mine. As well as the opal mine, there are over 500 carvings/sculptures in the sandstone walls of the mine which have all been done by one man over a period of about 18 years. It was incredible to see the variety there. We then went down another level and did a tour of the mine. The guide was great and apart from factual information about mining opals had lots of stories to tell as well. He was a miner for many years until he was badly injured in a cave-in in his mine. He has just purchased $10,000 worth of equipment and is about to take up mining again. Some people never learn! We toured around the area a bit more after leaving the mine and then it was time to come home for a rest. Later on we drove up to Nettletons First Shaft Lookout to watch the sunset. It turned out though that the sunset we’d seen on Monday from the caravan park was far more spectacular.

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Artesian Bore Baths                      The Last Supper                       The Crucifixion

We decided to change our plans and have an extra day in Lightning Ridge after talking to a guy at the lookout yesterday. We stayed on another day to do the “3 Pubs in the Scrub” day trip. It begins about 60km from Lightning Ridge over some fairly bad dirt road and wanders through opal fields. First stop was at The Club in the Scrub which has a golf course included. It didn’t look very inviting! Next was the Grawin General Store and Post Office – both had to be seen to be believed. On then to the Mulga Rush Mullock Dumps where there were lots of people picking through the rubble in the hopes of finding that elusive opal. As we drove further on we were amazed to find the Sheepyard War Memorial and Museum which was absolutely in the middle of nowhere.  We spent quite a while there and found the displays very moving.  Somehow after that we missed the  Sheepyard Inn so only ended up seeing “Two Pubs in the Scrub”.  Our final stop was at the Glengarry Hilton were we had a lunch stop – massive works burgers were the meals of choice and they were impressive. While we were eating lunch a miner we’d met the day before walked by.  We were talking to him about the fact that we hadn’t found any opals and with that he went back to his truck and came back with eight doublet opals – two for each of us.  We were stunned to say the least.  He was a bit of a rough diamond but very likeable and we were very grateful for his generosity.  The day was completed with a look through Sweeney Art and Craft Centre. I think the wives of some of the miners must keep themselves occupied by doing art and craft. None of us could even begin to imagine living in this part of the world. We all had a rest after arriving back at the park then I had a swim in the pool here before we all walked back to the Artesian Bore Baths for one last soak there.

SAM_5886 The Club in the Scrub         SAM_5902 Mulga Rush Mullock Dump        SAM_5916 Glengarry Hilton

Club in the Scrub Golf Course  Mulga Rush Mullock Dump         Glengarry Hilton

SAM_5914         SAM_5917 Water tank Glengarry toilet        SAM_5927

Sheepyard War Memorial           Note the plumbing!                      Beautiful opals

Queenslander 2014

Taylors Beach to  Burrum Heads

We’ve had a reasonably quiet week. David and I left Taylors Beach on Thursday morning and headed for Nome which is just south of Townsville. I had a doctor’s appointment along the way to try to sort out what was wrong with my shoulder. From there we went on to our friends, Lou and Armando, at Nome. We were looking forward to spending time with them. Lou and I have been friends since we were about six years old so it was a special time. They were cane farmers for many years but have retired now and live at the most amazing place perched right up on top of a hill with incredible 360 degree views. After lunch David and I had to go back into town so that I could have a scan and x-ray of my shoulder.

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David, Armando & the view                What a home!               David, Jen, Lou & Armando

Rain set in overnight and in the next 24 hours we had just over three inches of rain – most welcome. We went out on Friday afternoon to look at our old house where we lived from 1973 to 1983. It looked great but has changed quite a bit since we lived there. We also checked out Wulguru State Primary School where our boys all began their school life and also Wulguru Uniting Church where we worshipped for ten years.  On then to the doctor to get the results of the scan. I have a partial tear of the rotator cuff so she suggested that I try to see a physiotherapist at our next port of call. We then caught up with some other old friends, Ian and Jean. David navigated for Ian in many rallies when we lived in North Queensland and they also competed in the 1979 Repco Round Australia Trial so there were many stories told and much laughter. At night we went out to the Alligator Creek Bowls Club for dinner with Lou and Armando and their friends and thoroughly enjoyed our evening.

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Our home 1973-1983              Wulguru State School            Wulguru Uniting Church

Sadly we had to leave our friends on Saturday morning. We were meeting up with Di and Ron at our nephew’s place in Townsville. It was nice to spend a couple of hours with Andy, Alicia and Harrison before heading for an overnight stop at a free camp at Guthalungra (north of Bowen). There were plenty of other vans there and it was well set up for camping. Our next port of call was Mackay. The skies had cleared overnight and it was a beautiful day. We arrived at the caravan park about mid-day. Had a visit during the afternoon from my cousin Joe who we’d tried to see in Cairns but he was away then. I don’t think we’d seen each other for about 40 years but we found plenty to talk about. Sunday night was spent with another old friend, Gail, from our Townsville days. The four of us went and had dinner with her. I then spent quite a bit of time with her on Monday. David took the chance to stay at the van and have a lazy day while Di and Ron explored Mackay. Physio in the afternoon but it ended up being a short appointment. She thinks I now need to have a scan of my neck as the symptoms I’ve been experiencing made her think I may have an issue with a disc and she didn’t want to risk causing any further damage. I’ll leave it until we get home now as long as it doesn’t get any worse. We did a tour of the port after my appointment. David was amazed at the changes since he was involved in shipping here. Mackay is a lovely town – another place to put on our list of places to live!

SAM_5448         SAM_5451 Whistling ducks at Mackay       SAM_5453       Sunset, not fire, at Guthalungra       Whistling Ducks                Mackay – ships at anchor

We had a short trip today, only 120 kilometres, to a place called Clairview. We are free camping by the beach tonight and have spent a few hours sitting around a campfire. Such luxury! It was hard to pack up and leave on Wednesday. Not a lot to report for the day – we moved on to another free camp, this time at Benaraby just south of Gladstone. The local councils have gone to a lot of trouble to set up areas for free camping and it certainly benefits them as most people spend time and money in their towns. We decided while there that we’d head next to Burrum Heads to spend a few days there before bring our trip to an end.

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Tide’s out at Clairview!                                 A new day dawning!

The weather was reasonable when we arrived here and we all enjoyed a walk along the waterfront later in the day. It’s lovely to see the pelicans swimming by and boats anchored in the river. We woke on Friday to clouds and managed to get a walk in before the rain started. That’s pretty much what we’ve had ever since – rain!  Went for a drive to Hervey Bay later in the day and had a good look around there. Otherwise we’ve mostly had a lazy time. This morning Di and Ron packed up and left for home as they have a meeting to go to tomorrow. If the weather had been better they would have returned on Monday but it’s really not worth it the way things are.

SAM_5491 Burrum Heads     SAM_5499

Pelicans – I love them!                                   Burrum River at dusk

That’s it for now.  We’ll be home again soon so the next post will be a wrap up and then it will be back to the usual routines.  We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again.

Cooktown to Ingham

We spent another day in Cooktown. Visited the James Cook Museum which is run by the National Trust and is very well kept. One of the anchors and one of the cannons from the Endeavour are in the museum. They were amongst the items that were thrown overboard after the ship ran aground, in an effort to lighten it and float it off the reef. They were only recovered in the 1990’s. Lots of other interesting things to be seen as well. In the afternoon we drove out to see the Endeavour Falls which were about 30km north of Cooktown. Warnings of crocodiles abounded but we didn’t see any! The falls were lovely. Ron, Di and I had a wander around the local cemetery later on. One finds out a lot of history from such places so they are always interesting. Had a very windy and wet night so we were pleased to find everything still in one piece the next morning.

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Anchor from Endeavour    James Cook Museum                   Endeavour Falls

On Thursday morning we went our separate ways. Di and Ron were going to spend a few days at Mena Creek with some friends and we were heading up to Laura. We left our van at the caravan park at Lakeland Downs and just did a day trip up to Laura. On the way we stopped off to look at the Split Rock Aboriginal Rock Art site. It was a very steep climb up to the first site but was worthwhile to do. There were three different sites – Split Rock, Flying Fox and Tall Spirits and each with different types of paintings. On then to the small town of Laura and a further 28kms to see Old Laura Homestead. It is deserted now but it was good to look around. Lunch at Laura after that and then back to Lakeland Downs.

SAM_5167        SAM_5199         SAM_5200 Old Laura Homestead

Split Rock Art Site                               Laura River                      Old Laura Homestead

As I had a physiotherapy appointment in Atherton on Friday afternoon we moved on to stay at the Rocky Creek War Memorial Park just outside Atherton. It is a free camp and there would have been close to a hundred vans there – a great spot. Saw the physio who suggested I see a doctor when we get to Townsville then try to get a scan done, so that might change our plans a little but we’ll wait and see. The next morning we drove down to Cairns via Kuranda and enjoyed seeing the rich farming lands and beautiful scenery. We spent the afternoon visiting David’s cousin Celeste and her husband Ian and had a lovely time with them. Drove into the CBD after that to try to find ANL’s old office and wharf where David spent many hours when he was still working for ANL and we eventually succeeded. Then we went to The Esplanade and circled the area a few times before we finally found a place to park. It’s a bit like the waterfront at Surfers Paradise or Noosa – incredibly busy. It was nice to stroll along beside the water while enjoying an icecream!

SAM_5209 Rocky Creek War Memorial Park  SAM_5210 View of Cairns

Some of the vans at Rocky Creek                             View from Kuranda Range

We had planned to move on to Hull Heads near Tully on Sunday but thanks to the luxury of having our “home on wheels” with us were able to change our plans easily. We’d enjoyed a leisurely drive from Cairns, stopped in a Babinda for a delicious coffee, then detoured to drive past Paronella Park which I had first visited in 1964 and we’d then returned with our boys in 1983. It’s a “castle” which was built between 1929 and 1935 by Jose Paronella for his bride Margarita. It has had quite a history since then and now thanks to fire, floods and three cyclones is in a rather poor state. Anyway, after talking to the owner we decided to book in to the caravan park there and stay overnight. We did a guided tour in the afternoon and learnt lots about the history of the place and then later on did the night-time tour which focussed more on lighting up various parts of the old buildings. Both were very enjoyable.

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Mena Creek                   Ruins of refreshment Rooms          Ruins of “The Castle” + David!

As it happened, Di and Ron were staying just two kilometres from where we were, so we met up with them after leaving the park and drove down to Taylors Beach. We had another easy day with a few stops along the way. We checked out the Big Gumboot in Tully then drove out to Tully Heads and Hull Heads – both nice little beachside places. The drive down through Cardwell was interesting as when we were here two years ago there was much evidence of the damage that that been from Cyclone Yasi and also roadworks everywhere. The work on the highway is all finished now and compared to much of the Bruce Highway is wonderful to drive on. We lunched at Cardwell – delicious fresh crab sandwiches. The waitress there told us that Paul Hogan had lunched there the day before and that I was sitting in the chair where he had sat. I can’t say that it was the highlight of my day!  Another quick stop at the lookout over the Hinchinbrook Passage – it’s a magnificent view which never fails to impress.Our final stop for the day was at Taylors Beach where Lyndal and Don live. We’ve been able to park both the vans here and will enjoy a few days with family again.

SAM_5365           SAM_5367 Tully Heads          SAM_5370  Hinchinbrook Passage

The Big Gumboot                          Tully Heads                          Hinchinbrook Passage

We could hardly believe our eyes when we received a photo from Katie (our beautiful housesitter) of six peacocks/hens parading through our backyard on Tuesday morning.  She was terrified but we were just sorry that we weren’t there to see them.

Forest Lake - Peacocks 12.8.14

Peacock parade at Forest Lake

We’ve spent many hours here at Taylors Beach talking about and laughing over old times and have also fitted in a bit of sightseeing and exercise. Lunched at Forrest Beach on Tuesday and Di, Lyndal and I had a stroll along the beach. The three of us later walked up to Taylors Beach as well. Today we had a very lazy morning before driving back to Cardwell for a long walk before lunch. A fine job has been done in rebuilding along the waterfront.

Forrest Beach    Taylors Beach - Low tide

Forrest Beach                                                                Low tide at Taylors Beach

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Sailing ship off Cardwell                                          Old tree regenerated after Cyclone Yasi

That brings this episode to a close – only a couple more to go and we should be back home again.  Bye until next time.

Georgetown to Cooktown

We were a bit sad to leave Undara after a wonderful couple of days there but Cobbold Gorge was calling us. We stopped in at Mt Surprise for fuel and had planned to buy a coffee but after waiting in the shop for at least ten minutes we gave up as there was no sign of anyone to serve us. A bit further along the road we pulled up at a rest area instead. There was a lovely little billabong just off the road and cattle obviously taking the rest area sign to heart as they were nearly all sitting/lying under the shady trees. The caravan park in Georgetown was almost full when we arrived but thankfully we had booked ahead so had no problem. We all went for a walk up to the town centre after we’d set up. There wasn’t much open though as it was a show holiday for the Charters Towers show (5 hours away!).

SAM_4848 Billabong near Georgetown       SAM_4850

The Billabong                                                               Cattle at rest

Wednesday morning saw us heading to Cobbold Gorge for the day. We had to traverse 60 kilometres of dirt road to get there but mostly in good condition – just a few corrugations here and there to wake us up. The tour we were doing didn’t start until 1.30 so we had quite a bit of time to fill in which was no trouble at all. Our tour began in a 4 wheel drive bus which took us to just near the start of the gorge that was only discovered in the early 1990’s. From there we spent about an hour and a half walking around the area with the guide hearing about the history of the area and also interesting details about what the local aborigines used various plants for. We then climbed to the top of the gorge to look down to where we would soon go in the boat. There were some great rock formations and sheer drops down into the gorge. After clambering back down it was then time to climb into the boat and to venture into the gorge. The boat had an electric motor so was almost silent and it felt like we were gliding along except for when we hit the sides of the gorge! It was very narrow in places so was a tight squeeze to get through. It was a beautiful place with steep, towering walls, beautiful reflections and several freshwater crocodiles to make it just that little bit more interesting. We loved every minute of it and were so pleased that we’d gone. We arrived back at the caravan park just before 6.00pm and were ready for a quiet evening.

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Cobbold Gorge               Freshwater crocodile                 Beautiful reflections

On Thursday morning before leaving Georgetown for Atherton we called at the local butcher to purchase some meat as it had come highly recommended by our friend Russell. The butcher was a lovely fellow so we had quite a chat and a few laughs with him before getting on our way. We had 300km to cover that day so had a few rest breaks along the way. We stopped in at Innot Hot Springs to check out the springs and they were certainly hot. It was impossible to stand in the water which apparently comes out of the ground at 71 degrees Celsius. Next stop was a rest area where there was a lovely little creek burbling along and then we detoured in to Ravenshoe – a nice little town – to get some lunch. We finally arrived at the caravan park in Atherton at 2.30pm to be greeted by David’s and Di’s sister Lyndal and her husband Don. It was great to see them and we were all looking forward to spending a few days together. Plenty of chatter filled in the day once we were set up.

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Innot Hot Springs                                   Creek near Innot Hot Springs

Friday was spent looking at some points of interest on the Tablelands. First stop was the Curtain Fig Tree which is thought to be over 500 years old. It is quite a sight to see. Next was the Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra which was established to honour the soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. It is incredibly moving to see and is a beautiful, peaceful place. We all felt rather subdued when we left there.

SAM_5016        SAM_5020         SAM_5034           Curtain Fig Tree                                          Avenue of Honour

Lake Eacham and Malanda Falls were the last stops of the day. Home then to a magnificent dinner of prawns and barramundi provided by Lyndal and Don. We are certainly doing it tough!

SAM_5041 Lake Eacham     SAM_5043 SAM_5043 Malanda Falls

Lake Eacham                                                                           Malanda Falls

On Saturday we visited Mareeba but on the way stopped off at Rocky Creek War Memorial Park. It was established in 2007 on part of the site where a 3,000 bed hospital was built during World War II. Patients were brought there from all theatres of war in the South West Pacific and between 1943 and 1945 over 60,000 patients were treated. The Atherton Tablelands Area was the largest military base in Australia during that same period and between 200,000 and 300,000 troops were stationed there. It was again a sobering experience to see the memorial and we found plaques for both of our dad’s battalions or divisions. Next stop was the information centre at Mareeba where there is a great museum. After that a tour of Mareeba and then it was back to Atherton.

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My Dad’s Battalion                                            Rocky Creek War Memorial

David and I went to church on Sunday morning. It was the first time since we left home that we’d been in a place on a Sunday where there was a church. The others went off to Herberton to visit the Historical Village. We followed on afterwards but decided not to go to the village. Instead we drove around the town looking at the old buildings, found (we think) the house where my sister Barb lived when she taught here in 1972 and also the school. We then went out to Irvinebank which was a very prosperous tin mining town in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s about 30km from Herberton through very rugged country. We couldn’t help but wonder how anyone ever found their way there and discovered the tin. Nothing much has changed since those days. We were quite taken with the dam which has a log wall. The home of the fellow who established the smelter and owned many of the mines (John Moffat) is now a museum and it was interesting to see through that.

DSCF6130        DSCF6135 Loudon Dam with log wall        DSCF6145 Home of John Moffat

Irvinebank transport                       Loudon Dam                      John Moffat’s home

On Monday we said goodbye to Lyndal and Don and then we set off for Cooktown. We had a good trip and are now settled in here for a few days. On our first full day here we just looked around the town.  Looked at various things to do with Captain Cook’s enforced stay in 1770 while the Endeavour was repaired, checked out the lighthouse at Grassy Hill (it was for sale when I was last here in 1986!), Finch Bay, stories of miners who came here for the Palmer River goldrush, the Endeavour River and a few other things.  We quite like what we’ve seen of Cooktown but don’t think we’ll be moving here any time soon!

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Endeavour River                     Captain James Cook         Lighthouse at Grassy Hill

More on Cooktown next time but for now I’ll finish and get this posted.

Cania Gorge to Undara

We departed from Cania Gorge on Sunday July 20 and our main aim was to get to Charters Towers by Wednesday. Our first day was fairly uneventful and we overnighted at Dingo. The caravan park was fine but not much else could be said for Dingo! On Tuesday we went as far as Clermont but detoured in to Fairbairn Dam for a morning tea stop. We were joined by some very inquisitive lorikeets. They took great delight in picking at our food on the table and squabbling with each other over who should get to eat the food. Ron stood guard over one who was being bullied by the most dominant one and it was funny to watch. We were last at the dam in 2011 just after the flood and at that time the water was lapping over the spillway. Now it is about 10 metres below. We’ve seen evidence of the lack of rain all around the countryside as everything is extremely dry.

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Lorikeets at lunch                           Fairbairn Dam                       Birdlife at the dam

We had planned to spend the night at Theresa Creek Dam which we’d heard about along the way but the camping area was unpowered and as the expected overnight low was to be 0 degrees we opted for the caravan park in Clermont instead. I’ve been quite unwell since leaving home so didn’t like the idea of freezing. We all liked Clermont and enjoyed having a look around before leaving for Charters Towers the next morning. From there we drove out to Theresa Creek Dam to see what we’d missed out on. It’s a beautiful place and we plan to go back one day to spend some time there.

SAM_4721 Theresa Dam         SAM_4724

Theresa Creek Dam                  My favourite birds

Our final night before getting to Charters Towers was spent at Belyando Crossing (population 5!). Vans on the powered sites were packed in in four rows with three vans one behind the other. The middle van had no hope of going anywhere unless the one in front or behind left! We quite enjoyed the experience though – everyone was very friendly and talkative.

SAM_4727 Belyando Crossing

Belyando Crossing – packed in like sardines!

SAM_4730 Charters Towers

Towers Hill Lookout

We had a good run to Charters Towers on Wednesday and soon settled in to the park there. We opted to stay at the Big 4 Park and it was a lovely spot to be. Took a trip in to town later in the day for me to go to the doctor and also to go to the Information Centre where we hired a CD to use the next day to do a tour of the town and surrounding area. We checked out the fully restored Stock Exchange building before returning to the park to join with dozens of others for bangers and mash. Thursday saw us touring the area. The CD was great to have and gave us lots of information about mining in the district and the early settlers. We visited the Family History Centre to try to find out some information about David’s and Di’s grandparents – Allen and Sofia (Baglini) Guyatt. Their grandfather was a miner here in the late 1890’s and their grandmother was originally a housekeeper for her brother until she and Allen married. We found what we think was their house but who would really know! Charters Towers has changed a lot since we lived in Townsville from 1973 to 1983 and is quite a prosperous looking town now. The climate is lovely at this time of year – so much so that David is threatening to winter here each year!

SAM_4729            SAM_4738           SAM_4739 The World Theatre CT

Is this Grandpa’s house?            The Stock Exchange            The World Theatre

Friday was moving day again with just an overnight stop at Greenvale. When we lived in Townsville it was known for its nickel mine but that has long since closed down and not a lot remains. It was interesting to visit though and to have a walk around the town. These days it is famous for its sausage trees and not much else! That is not strictly true as there is still some nickel being mined around the place. The caravan park was quite pleasant and was well patronised when we there. It was also the home of hundreds of galahs making a lot of noise.

SAM_4742 Rose Garden Greenvale       SAM_4744 Sausage Tree Greenvvale       SAM_4749 Galahs at Greenvale

Roses at Greenvale                 The Sausage Tree                  Galahs everywhere!

We arrived at Undara about midday and we were all excited to be here. It’s been on my list of places to visit for many years so couldn’t believe that we were finally here. The Collins family who own this place settled here in 1862 and six generations of the family have lived here since. The Undara Experience was opened to visitors in 1990.  We had a quiet afternoon and evening before joining a singsong around the campfire after dinner. There have been several highlights for us here. We did The Archway Explorer guided tour which included visiting three of the lava tubes. They were amazing to see and we enjoyed hearing the history of how they were formed. Our fitness was tested as there were about 250 stairs to climb.

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Entrance to a lava tube                    The Archway                  Patterns in the roof of the arch

Later in the afternoon we did a bushwalk to The Bluff then continued on a circuit which brought us back to the park. More climbing hills and stairs but some great views made it worthwhile. There is a huge flat area nearby named the Hundred Mile Swamp. It was so named because it is 100 miles from Cardwell which was the major town in the north in the 1800’s and the road connected the two places. After dinner we joined in a trivia night around the campfire which was a bit of fun.

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Grevillea in flower at the park        View from The Bluff               David on the rocky path

The third highlight was a drive to the Kalkani Crater followed by a 2.5km walk up to the crater and around the rim. Again it was quite a steep climb and a rough, rocky walk around the rim but certainly worth the effort. There are numerous extinct volcanoes in this area and many of them were visible in the distance. When we lived in PNG in the 1970’s we climbed three volcanoes so it was interesting to do so again.

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Walking around the rim           Volcanoes in the distance                  Almost down!

David spent quite a while after we came home fixing a problem with our gas stove top as we were unable to get it to light. It involved pulling the whole thing out and making do with, amongst other things, a paper clip to fix the problem. He and Ron got it sorted and all is well again. Clever boys!

Each site here has it’s own fireplace and barbecue so we made good use of them tonight and cooked and ate a yummy dinner before heading to the communal fireplace again for another trivia night. It’s been a fabulous experience being here but all good things come to an end and tomorrow we move on to Georgetown where there is sure to be much more to see and do.

That’s it for this week.

Brisbane to Cania Gorge

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Having been home for 8 months from our trip around Australia we were getting itchy feet so decided it was time to hook up the van and head off into the great outdoors again. After a bit of a debate about whether to go north or south the north won out. We set off on Monday morning July 14 to head to Nanango where our niece Caz lives with her family. We met up there with Di and Ron – our travelling companions from last year and again this year. Caz and Andrew have acreage so we were able to stay at their place. David’s and Di’s oldest sister Robin and her husband Bruce (Caz’s parents) had come to stay as well so we enjoyed some lovely family time together. Tuesday morning we wandered the streets of Nanango looking at the historic sites (not very historic!) and did a tour of a lovely old home called Ringsfield House then in the afternoon took a drive to Kingaroy. We checked out a few things there then on the way home drove past Bethany – the home of Joh and Flo. Alas, the tours are only available two days a week, so no pumpkin scones for us! We packed up on Wednesday morning and said goodbye to Caz, Andrew and Lily. It was great to stay with them and we’ll be back another day.

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Ringsfield House                       Kingaroy looking to the Bunyas

We had a leisurely drive on Wednesday to our next overnight stop which was at Binjour Range Free Camp (17km north of Gayndah). Detoured along the way to the Kinboombi Falls east of Goomeri. Although there wasn’t masses of water flowing over it was still worth seeing. Along the way we passed a road which crossed Guyatt’s Bridge and we’ve since discovered that the road leads to a property owned by distant relatives of our branch of the Guyatt family.  After a quick look then around Goomeri we continued on to Gayndah where we had a lunch stop at a pleasant rest area on the river bank. On then to the Binjour Range campsite. We arrived mid afternoon expecting to see a lot of other vans but we were the sole occupants and that is how it stayed. It was a great site and we were able to have a campfire which made it even better. We were thankful for a heavy cloud cover as otherwise it would have been rather chilly.

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Kinboombi Falls                          Self-explanatory!               Binjour Range Free Camp

There was a bit of drama on Thursday morning as Ron discovered that the three batteries in his caravan were flat and also the one in his car. The ones in the van were completely dry and it took Ron ages to refill them. We then had to jump start the Prado. Thankfully by the time we reached our next stop at Cania Gorge the batteries were charging nicely. As we only travelled a distance of 170km we had plenty of time to have a look at Eidsvold and then Monto where we stopped for lunch before arriving at Cania Gorge at 2 o’clock. It’s a lovely place and it’s nice to be back here again. We were last here three years ago with our friends Bruce and Gail Mc Cubben. A lazy afternoon was in order, our only exertion after setting up being to participate in the bird feeding! King parrots, lorikeets, rosellas, cockatoos and galahs got stuck into it with great gusto. David got the obligatory droppings down the back of his neck! Although we are in a caravan park campfires are permitted so the guys got a fire going and we spent a few hours sitting around that.

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Bird feeding at Cania Gorge

It was rather cold overnight so we were all thankful that we had heaters in the vans. It took us a while to get going and to head off to do some walks. Our first stop was at Cania Dam – a pretty spot with nice picnic areas. From there we went to the spot where most of the walks in the gorge begin. We did the Dragon Cave, Bloodwood Cave and Gorge Lookout walks. Lots of uphill and at least a couple of hundred steps but it was worth the effort. We had a lazy afternoon and then just before dark got a fire going again to cook a camp oven dinner. We sat around the fire until we were all nearly frozen and then retired to our vans with the heaters going flat out.

SAM_4567 Cania Dam       SAM_4575 Dragon Cave       SAM_4592 Bloodwood Cave

Cania Dam                           Dragon Cave                       Bloodwood Cave

Saturday was to be our last full day here so after a leisurely start to the day we decided to do another walk, this time the Two Storey Cave Circuit. We did it when we were here three years ago but were happy to do it again as the cave is pretty impressive. Ron and I climbed up through a hole to the upper storey while David and Di waited below. It’s a bit of a tricky climb but worth the effort. Once we got back to the car we had a cup of coffee before going to do the walk to the Shamrock Mine which came into being sometime before 1870. There wasn’t a lot to see apart from a bit of old machinery and the old mine shaft. Not much else to report for the day apart from having a delicious woodfired pizza for dinner. We enjoyed chatting with a couple from Burpengary over dinner.

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 King Orchid Crevice  Bottom level Two Storey Cave  Upper level Two Storey Cave

Tomorrow we move on to Dingo as we head further north and hopefully to some warmer weather.